Tag: Portland OR

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Other Lives Release an Intimate and Gorgeous Tribute to a Lost Friend

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed Portland, OR-based indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Other Lives. Initially formed in Stillwater, OK in 2004, the band wrote, recorded and released an album under the name Kunek but a decided change in sonic direction and songwriting approach necessitated a re-branding.  Since the band renamed themselves, they’ve released their critically applauded sophomore album, 2015’s Rituals, which helped establish their sound — a lushly cinematic and orchestral sound that frequently draws comparisons to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National and Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunnymen among others.

Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstays’ highly-anticipated, self-produced, third full-length album For Their Lives is slated fro an April 24, 2020 release through ATO Records. Deriving its title from one of the earlier songs the band wrote for the album, Other Lives’ third album reportedly finds the members of the band reconnecting with the rural life they had known as children. Before the writing and recording of For Their Lives, the band’s frontman Jesse Tabish and his wife Kim Tabish left Portland and rented a friend’s A-frame home in Oregon’s Cooper Mountain region, surrounded by towering trees — and no neighbors in site. “Something about the title feels both inclusive and also of a larger scene,” explains Other Lives’ primary songwriter and frontman Jesse Tabish. “The song also embodied the direction we wanted to take.”

Naturally, the bucolic setting wound up heavily inspiring the album. “My wife, Kim, and I moving to this house and making a new life and music together was a huge part of this record,” Jesse Tabish says in press notes. “I found there was too much distraction in Portland, but here we could dedicate ourselves to work. I found that I returned to my music vocabulary in a natural way, using certain types of chords or keys, and also the way I sing. Living with roommates in Portland, I was too shy to sing in front of them. But here, I felt free.” Interestingly, that sense of freedom and togetherness carried over to the way the album was written and recorded: the album is arguably the most collaborative effort they trio has written to date — and it includes contributions from drummer Danny Reisch, who appeared on Rituals and backing vocals from Jesse Tabish’s wife Kim. “We really set out to make a band record,” Tabish says.

As the album’s material came together, they went towards a much different creative approach than its immediate predecessor: the band avoided re-working and refining tracks, instead choosing to record different arrangements of songs “to capture the vibe of something more instant,” Tabish explains. “We were adamant that For Their Love would have no tricks and nothing to hide behind, which we’d been doing psychologically, as well as as musically. We wanted ten songs that held up by themselves.” This was partially inspired by Jesse Tabish’s personal efforts to emerge from “hiding” and re-engaging with the outside world by “getting real with myself.” as he puts it. Before and during the writing and recording sessions, the band — who are also lifelong friends — had a number of ongoing conversations about the current state of our world. And as a result, the album’s material thematically questions, observes, laments and hopefully finds the slightest hope in the individual and ourselves. “Characters sometimes venture into spiritual, religious or institutionalized endeavors — though I’ve personally found that self-worth is more important than any teachings or preaching,” Tabish says.

Last month, I wrote about the rousingly anthemic album single “Hey Hey I.” Arguably one of the most politically charged songs of their growing catalog, the song is a forceful commentary on our contemporary world: at the core is the realization that the American Dream that so many hard-working Joes and Janes have bought and sold for generations is a lie. For Their Love’s latest single “We Wait” continues a remarkable run of cinematic material, but centered around a fearlessly unadulterated intimacy. It’s one of many songs in which Tabish digs deep and gets uncomfortably real, with the song finding Tabish publicly confronting one of the darkest corners of his life for the first time. 

“When I was 15, I formed the All American Rejects. This was my high school band,” Other Lives’ Jesse Tabish writes in an statement on the song’s backstory. “Always there in our everyday life were Tommy and Jennifer, a member’s older sister and brother-in-law. Tommy was the older brother I never had. Kind and wise, he was my mentor and family to me. 

Tommy was shot and killed at the age of 25, on the morning of 30th November. Jennifer, his wife, had hired his murderer.

This event completely devastated and shattered my reality. I quit the Rejects and was very lost. I soon found the piano and started moving towards a deeper place inside, artistically, which has shaped me to this day. For many years, I had avoided this trauma and couldn’t touch the subject. I pushed it out, only for it to haunt me more recently.

Writing this song is the way for me to heal and remember my old pal, Tommy.” 

Much like Reliant Tom’s “Never Mind the Garbage,” “We Wait” manages to be more prescient in a way that its creators could never have imagined. These are dark and very dire times. Many of us are aware of the fact that the end result of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a new and terrifying reality of profound and inescapable loss, economic destruction and hopelessness that will force us to look deep within ourselves. 

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New Video: Deathlist Releases a Brooding Visual for Murky Album Single “You Won’t Be Here For Long”

Jenny Logan is a Portland, OR-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has spent the past few years being very busy as a member of grunge pop trio Loveboys, post-punk act Miss Rayon, guitar pop act Sunbathe, and her solo recording project Deathlist. With her Deathlist, Logan has released a handful of material including 2017’s S/T debut, 2018’s attention-grabbing Fun. and last year’s A Canyon and Loved, which have helped established her sound — a sound that’s influenced by New Order, Suicide and The Jesus and Mary Chain. 

Logan’s fifth Deathlist album You Won’t Be Here for Long is slated for a May 29, 2020 release. Recorded and mixed by Victor Nash at Destination: Universe, the forthcoming album thematically explores loss, grief, survival and love. You Won’t Be Here for Long’s latest single, album title track “You Won’t Be Here For Long” is a slow-burning and murky dirge centered around droning synths, a sinuous bass line, Logan’s husky vocals and tweeter and woofer rocking beats. And while clearly being indebted to the pulsating minimalism of Suicide, the song as Logan explained to New Noise Magazine “is about the temporariness of everything and how stranger it is what we still exist at all.” Considering how dire everything in our world is at the moment, the song’s overall theme seems both prescient and fitting. 

Shot in Red Rock Canyon, outside of Las Vegas, the video is split between black and white home video recorder footage of Lewis hiking and wandering in the desert, and footage of her lying down in a bed of flowers. It emphasizes the eeriness of the song — while illustrating our smallness and fragility within a larger, indifferent universe. 

New Video: Other Lives Release a Cinematic Visual for Anthemic and Politically Charged Single “Hey Hey I”

Initially formed in Stillwater, OK in 2004, the acclaimed Portland, OR-based indie rock act Other Lives wrote, recorded and released an album under the Kunek, but a decidedly change in sonic direction and songwriting approach necessitated a re-branding. And since renaming themselves Other Lives, the band has released critically applauded material, including their sophomore album 2015’s Rituals, which further cemented their sound, a lush, cinematic and orchestrated sound that would likely draw comparisons to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National and Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunnymen among others. 

Other Lives’ highly-anticipated, self-produced, third full-length album For Their Lives is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through ATO Records. Deriving its title from one of the earlier songs the band wrote for the album, the Portland area-based band’s third album reportedly finds the members of the band reconnecting with the rural life they had grown up. Before the writing and recording of For Their Lives, the band’s frontman Jesse Tabish and his wife Kim Tabish left Portland and rented a friend’s A-frame home in Oregon’s Cooper Mountain region, surrounded by towering trees — and no neighbors in site. “Something about the title feels both inclusive and also of a larger scene,” explains Other Lives’ primary songwriter and frontman Jesse Tabish. “The song also embodied the direction we wanted to take.”

Naturally, the bucolic setting wound up heavily inspiring the album. “My wife, Kim, and I moving to this house and making a new life and music together was a huge part of this record,” Jesse Tabish says in press notes. “I found there was too much distraction in Portland, but here we could dedicate ourselves to work. I found that I returned to my music vocabulary in a natural way, using certain types of chords or keys, and also the way I sing. Living with roommates in Portland, I was too shy to sing in front of them. But here, I felt free.” Interestingly, that sense of freedom and togetherness carried over to the way the album was written and recorded: the album is arguably the most collaborative effort they trio has written to date — and it includes contributions from drummer Danny Reisch, who appeared on Rituals and backing vocals from Jesse Tabish’s wife Kim. “We really set out to make a band record,” Tabish says. 

As the album’s material came together, they went towards a much different creative approach than its immediate predecessor: the band avoided re-working and refining tracks, instead choosing to record different arrangements of songs “to capture the vibe of something more instant,” Tabish explains. “We were adamant that For Their Love would have no tricks and nothing to hide behind, which we’d been doing psychologically, as well as as musically. We wanted ten songs that held up by themselves.” This was partially inspired by Jesse Tabish’s personal efforts to emerge from “hiding” and re-engaging with the outside world by “getting real with myself.” as he puts it. Before and during the writing and recording sessions, the band — who are also a lifelong friends — had a number of ongoing conversations about the current state of our world. And as a result, the album’s material thematically “question, observe, lament and hopefully find the slightest hope in the individual and ourselves. Characters sometimes venture into spiritual, religious or institutionalized endeavors — though I’ve personally found that self-worth is more important than any teachings or preaching,” Tabish says. 

For Their Lives’ latest single is the anthemic “Hey Hey I.” Centered around a cinematic arrangement featuring enormous sing and shout along worthy hooks, strummed guitar, shimmering and soaring strings, twinkling keys and xylophone and choir-like backing vocals, the song manages to be the most direct and forceful they’ve written to date, while retaining the cinematic quality that has won them attention. But while being anthemic, the song lyrically addresses the paradigm of the downtrodden and broken working class. At the song’s core, there’s the realization that the American Dream that hard-working Joes and Janes have been sold and bought is a lie. Certainly, with the impact of COVID-10 on countless people we know and love, that realization is coming in with a starkly dire focus. 

The recently released video for “Hey Hey I” is a gorgeously cinematic black-and-white visual shot at the A-frame studio in the Cooper Mountains, where the band recorded the album. “The video is a reflection of the recording process of the album, that took place in the A-frame in the woods,” says frontman Jesse Tabish. “We wanted to portray this process in a natural, organic way, without telling a story but rather showing glimpses of us working together as well as coming together with friends.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Howard Ivans Releases a Sultry and Funky New Single Paired with Hand Drawn Animated Visuals

Throughout the bulk of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the prolific Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstay, singer/songwriter  Ivan Howard. Howard may be best known for stints fronting  The Rosebuds the acclaimed indie supergroup GAYNGS and De La Noche, which featured Howard’s longtime friends and Rosebuds bandmates Robert Rogan and Brian Weeks, and writing Kanye West and Bon Iver. He’s also received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere with his solo recording project and alter ego Howard Ivans. 

Yesterday, Ivan Howard released his sophomore Howard Ivans album Riviera. “It feels ridiculous to release music in this mayhem, but just maybe someone will enjoy it and forget about everything that is going on for a little while, like I do when I’m listening to music,” Ivan Howard wrote in a statement. “I had a blast making this record. The songs were written with some really great songwriters while i was living in LA a little while back. We’d meet on the spot, write and sing them in a few hours, then take them home to be finished up musically. Common practice in the LA songwriting world — and both exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You never know how a session would wind up but luckily I think these set of songs ended up pretty great to my ears! Maybe you will dig Riviera too. I give a huge thank you to my co-conspirators: Wallis Allen, Alex & Alex, and Matthew Puckett.

Cowritten by Ivan Howard and Wallis Allen, Riviera’s latest single “It’s Too Late” is a slinky, 80s synth funk-inspired jam centered around a sinuous bass line reminiscent of Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” and Cherelle’s “Saturday Love,” brief blasts of horn, four-on-the-floor-like drumming, atmospheric synths and a funky, two-step inducing hook and Howard’s achingly plaintive vocals. Sonically speaking, the song — to my ears — brings a few different things to mind: Phil Collins’ “Sussudio,” and Tears for Fears in particular, but with late night Quiet Storm-like yearning. It’s a slightly uptempo take on what has been Howard’s established sound and aesthetic. 

Kevin Moran and Ivan Howard created the accompanying hand-animated video for “It’s Never Too Late,” and the video is fittingly 80s-inspired: neon bright colors and explosive child-like energy. 

New Video: Oslo-based Psych Rock Act Mayflower Madame Releases a Menacing Visual for Shimmering “Swallow”

Over the past couple of years of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to write a bit about the rising Oslo Norway-based psych rock/post-punk act Mayflower Madame — Trond Fagernes (vocals, guitar, bass), Havard Haga (guitar) and Ola J. Kyrkjeeide (drums). Formed back in 2011, the band’s hazy and smoky sound was conceived in and inspired by their gritty surroundings: they first rehearsed in a desolate, industrial building, where they shared space with a local carwash company. Shortly after their formation, they recorded a four-track demo, which lead to them being named “Unsigned Band of the Week” on one of Norway’s biggest radio stations.

The band then spent several years touring and playing shows across Scandinavia, carefully honing their sound along the way. The band’s full-length debut, 2016’s Observed in a Dream featured eight tracks of psych rock/shoegaze paired with dark romanticism in a way that was icy, brooding and hauntingly majestic. The Norwegian psych act toured across North America and Europe, followed by 2018’s Premonition EP — four songs of apocalyptic love songs.

Building upon a growing profile, Mayflower Madame supported Premonition EP with more touring and appearances across the European festival circuit with stops in France, Germany, the UK and Eastern Europe. So far, the band has shared stages with the likes of Killing Joke, Moon Duo, Night Beats, Psychic Ills, Froth, The Underground Youth, Crocodiles, Cosmonauts and La Femme. Most of this occurred between recording sessions for their forthcoming sophomore album.

Slated for a March 27, 2020 release through a collaboration between French label Only Lovers Records, Portland‘s Little Cloud Records and Parisian label Icy Cold Records, Prepared for a Nightmare reportedly finds the members of Mayflower Madame further developing their unique blend of psych-noir and post punk with elements of shoegaze and noise rock.  “Vultures,” the album’s menacing and propulsive first single manages to recall The Black Angels, My Gold Mask, and Chain of Flowers, as its centered around forceful drumming, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and rousing hooks and an enormous sound. The album’s latest single “Swallow” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: shimmering reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths, a gentle seemingly Texan twang, an enormous hook and a deeply menacing and uneasy vibe. And in some way, the song seems to evoke the feelings of dread and despair that many of us are starting to feel now. 

Continuing an ongoing collaboration with Astrid Serck, the recently released video features a stylistic and hypnotic array of trippy visuals that further emphasizes the song’s sense of menace and unease seen in blood red backgrounds.  

New Video: Rising Oslo-based Psych Act Mayflower Madame Releases a Menacing Visual for “Vultures”

Rising Oslo Norway-based psych rock/post-punk act Mayflower Madame — Trond Fagernes (vocals, guitar, bass), Havard Haga (guitar) and Ola J. Kyrkjeeide (drums) — formed back in 2011. The band’s hazy, smoke-laden sound was conceived in and inspired by their gritty surroundings: they first rehearsed in a desolate, industrial building, where they shared space with a local carwash company. Shortly after their formation, they recorded a four-track demo, which lead to them being named “Unsigned Band of the Week” on one of Norway’s biggest radio stations. 

The band then spent several years touring and playing shows across Scandinavia, carefully honing their sound along the way. The band’s full-length debut, 2016’s Observed in a Dream featured eight tracks of psych rock/shoegaze paired with dark romanticism in a way that was icy, brooding and hauntingly majestic. The Norwegian psych act toured across North America and Europe, followed by 2018’s Premonition EP — four songs of apocalyptic love songs. 

Building upon a growing profile, Mayflower Madame supported Premonition EP with more touring and appearances across the European festival circuit with stops in France, Germany, the UK and Eastern Europe. So far, the band has shared stages with the likes of Killing Joke, Moon Duo, Night Beats, Psychic Ills, Froth, The Underground Youth, Crocodiles, Cosmonauts and La Femme. Most of this occurred between recording sessions for their forthcoming sophomore album. 

Slated for a March 27, 2020 release through a collaboration between French label Only Lovers Records, Portland’s Little Cloud Records and Parisian label Icy Cold Records, Prepared for a Nightmare reportedly finds the members of Mayflower Madame further developing their unique blend of psych-noir and post punk with elements of shoegaze and noise rock.  “Vultures,” the album’s menacing and propulsive first single manages to recall The Black Angels, My Gold Mask, and Chain of Flowers, as its centered around forceful drumming, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and rousing hooks and an enormous sound. 

Directed by Astrid Serck, the black and white video is a hypnotic visual featuring a combination of collage-based laminations and imagery, live footage of the band performing and a dance sequenced performed by Norwegian drag artist Remi Johansen Hovda. The video manages to capture the tense and uneasy vibes of the song — and at points it feels as though someone or something is lurking just over your shoulder. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Blackwater Holylight Releases a Gorgeous and Feverish Visual for Doom-laden “Jizz Witch”

Led by founding member Allison “Sunny” Faris (vocals, bass), the acclaimed Portland, OR-based heavy psych act Blackwater Holylight can trace its origins to when Faris’ previous band split up. And at the time, Faris started the band as a way to experiment with what her own version of heavy should and could be both sonically and emotionally — while celebrating vulnerability in all of its forms. Secondly, Faris, who was frequently the only woman in many of her bands, desperately wanted to see how it was to work exclusively with women. 

Blackwater Holylight released their critically applauded self-titled, full-length debut last year, and as a result of extensive touring to support it, the band has managed to hone their sound and identity — with their sound evolving to the point that their live show has become about the slow build.  Interestingly enough, as a heavy band, the Portland-based JOVM mainstays sonically and structurally manage to do something unlike any of their peers in the scene: their material generally isn’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come and go in rippling and undulating waves that surface through meditative and entrancing songs, while focusing on building tension and intrigue. 

The band released their sophomore album Veils of Winter last October through RidingEasy Records, and the album finds the band with a different lineup — Faris (bass, vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths) along with the band’s newest members Mikayla Mayhew (guitar) Eliese Dorsay (drums). And perhaps s a result of their new lineup, their sound and writing process has changed dramatically. “The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” Faris says in press notes. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”

“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” Faris continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”

Now, as you may recall over the course of last year, I wrote about two of the album’s previously released singles — the one part doom metal, one part shoegazer “Motorcycle” and the nuanced, yet more straightforward shoegazer-like “Death Realms.” The album’s latest single “Jizz Witch” is an ominous track that further cements the band’s reputation for crafting a doom metal take on shoegaze — or better yet a shoegazer take on doom metal. In any case much like its predecessors, it’s a slow-burning and nuanced dirge that you can simultaneously light incense to and sway and headbang. 

Directed by Phoenix Wolfe, the recently released video is a gorgeously shot yet surreal and symbolic fever dream that features powerful women. 

New Video: Joseph Releases a Shimmering and Bittersweet Ode to New Year’s Eve

Deriving their name from their grandfather Jo and the tiny Oregon town of  Joseph, OR, in which he was born and raised, the  Portland, OR-based sibling indie pop trio Joseph, comprised of Natalie Closner Schepman and her two, younger twin sisters Meegan and Alison grew up in a musical household — their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher. However, their collaboration together can trace their origins back to around 2014: Schepman who had been pursuing a solo career as a signer/songwriter, recruited her sisters to join her in a new project. When the Closner sisters began collaborating together, they quickly recognized an irresistible and undeniable simpatico.

The trio quickly developed a reputation for playing intimate house shows, in which the siblings accompanied themselves with acoustic guitar and foot drum. Interestingly, within their first year working together, the trio self-released their debut, 2014’s Native Dreamer Kin, which caught the attention of ATO Records, who signed the group the following year. After releasing 2015’s, ATO Sessions EP, an acoustic, two song, digital EP and accompanying video series, the sibling trio went on to release their Mike Mogis-produced, label debut 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not, which featured the smash hit “White Flag.” “White Flag” landed on Spotify’s US Viral Top Ten Chart within days of its release. By October, the track landed at #1 on the Adult Alternative Charts.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the trio made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Later . . . with JoolsHolland, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan, CBS This Morning and Today. They also opened for James Bay during a sold out, 2016 arena tour — and they made festival stops at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Sasquatch Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Outside Lands Festival, Pilgrimage Music Festival and several others.

Released earlier this year, the trio’s Christian “Leggy” Langdon-produced sophomore album Good Luck, Kid is the highly anticipated follow-up to their critically applauded and commercially successful label debut, and the album finds the trio pushing their sound in a grittier, more dynamic direction while retaining the gorgeous harmonizing and earnest vocals that won them attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere. “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life-recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” Natalie Closner Schepman says in press notes.  “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

I wrote about album single “Green Eyes,” a track that found the sibling trio meshing classic Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era pop with hints of old-school country and contemporary pop with an arrangement that featured twinkling piano, strummed acoustic guitar, dramatic drumming, an enormous hook and the Closner Sisters’ gorgeous harmonizing. And much like their previously released work, the single was a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection, centered around ambitious yet incredibly earnest songwriting: in this case, the song’s narrator recognizes that their relationship is at a crossroads — and that she will be forced to make a life changing decision. 

The album’s latest single, “NYE” is a shimmering slow-burn centered around strummed guitar, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, the Closners’ gorgeous harmonies and a soaring hook. But at its core, the song — to me, at least — may arguably be the most ambivalent and ambiguous song emotionally that they’ve released to date with the song managing to evoke the confusion swirl of emotions many of us feel when the New Year rolls around: the dashed hopes of a great night that’s gone horribly; the sense of relief that a difficult year or decade has come to an end; the bittersweet recognition that time is rushing by and that you’re getting older; the slow dance or the kiss you’ll hopefully get as the clock strikes midnight, if you have someone — or met someone cute that night; and the hope that the next year (and in our case, the next decade) will be better. 

Directed by Justin Frick, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “NYE” is appropriately set at a New Year’s Eve party with an enormous disco ball. And it accurately captures the ambivalent and ambitious emotions at the core of the song. 

New Video: Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock and TOBACCO) Releases a Nightmarish and Holiday-Themed Visual for “Tuesday”

Born Ian Matthais Bavitz in Syosset, NY, the Portland, OR-based emcee and producer Aesop Rock is best known for being at the forefront of a collection of underground and alternative hip-hop acts that emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The bulk of his most boundary pushing work was released through El-P’s Definitive Jux Records. Additionally, the Syosset-born, Portland-based emcee has developed a reputation for being a highly-sought after collaborator, working in a number of projects including The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz, The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson and Two of Every Animal with Cage. Importantly, whether as as solo artist or part of a collaborative group, Aesop Rock is considered one of the genre’s more verbose emcees, known for a flow that feature dense and abstract wordplay and complex inner and out rhyme schemes. 

Over the past decade, the Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Thomas Fec, best known as TOBACCO has employed the use of analog synthesizers and tape machines to create material — as a solo artist and as the frontman and creative mastermind of Black Moth Super Rainbow — that rapidly alternates between absurdly bright beauty and the murderously sinister, while evoking a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement and pleasure. 

Malibu Ken, the duo’s collaboration together can trace its origins back to when TOBACCO and Aesop Rock toured together over a decade ago. “I find his production to be something special, and always wanted to see what I could bring to it,” Aesop Rock says in press notes. ” We recently found time to record some songs, and Malibu Ken was born. I brought a few stories to the table, but also did my best to let the production dictate the subject matter throughout. We hope you like the soup.” Now, as you may recall, Rhymesayers Entertainment released the duo’s self-titled full-length debut earlier this year, and with album single “Acid King,” the duo quickly established themselves for crafting some of the most forward-thinking, strangest and boundary pushing hip hop I’ve heard in some time.  

Aptly released today, “Tuesday,” Malibu Ken’s latest single continues on a similar vein as its immediate predecessor as it’s centered around Aesop Rock’s dense and mind-bending bars full of absurdist imagery, pop culture references and ridiculous word play and TOBACCO’s woozy retro-futuristic production consisting of tweeter and woofer rocking beats, chopped up and vocodered vocals and distorted whirring synth arpeggios.  

Directed by longtime Aesop Rock collaborator Rob Shaw, the recently released video for “Tuesday” is centered around familiar holiday-related themes — food, family, obligation and duty but with a nightmarish, fever dream-like logic. 

Back in 2014, keyboardist Ryan Neighbors left his full-time gig with acclaimed indie act Portugal. The Man to pursue his on creative pursuits — namely, his latest electro pop project Hustle and Drone with collaborator Andy Black. With the release of that year’s debut Holyland, the duo built up a profile across the Pacific Northwest, eventually playing the region’s major venues and selling them out. Building upon a growing profile, the band toured across Europe.

Once the dust settled, the duo returned to woodshedding material, confident that they’d craft a competent and worthy follow-up. As the story goes, Neighbors and Black wrote material and flew out their producer Sonny DiPerri to Portland to dig into what they had just finished. DiPerri’s response wasn’t what the duo was prepared to hear. “He asked, If you didn’t write this, would you listen to it?” Neighbors recalls in press notes. “We thought he was flying out to Portland for us to put the finishing touches on our record, but then he told us we needed to start from the beginning. I was pissed.”

As it turned out, DiPerri felt that the material the duo had worked on was inauthentic and that it didn’t mirror the pain and the dark places he saw in Neighbors’ and Black’s life. So he pushed them to identity and dig deeper into something much more representative of where the duo actually was at the time. “He knows me well, so he was also well aware that I wasn’t really in a happy place and had been struggling with depression,” explains Neighbors. “He wanted those feelings to bleed out through the songs; we aren’t trying to be a fun dance band.”

Neighbors and Black started over from scratch, learning new synths and software and dug into new sample libraries. The tough love DiPerri gave them began to yield a dark and cathartic collection of songs, which after more refining and polishing would eventually become their forthcoming sophomore album What An Uproar, an effort that was finished in the remote town of Talkeetna, AK. The solitude of the town, contributed heavily to the focus with which the band took on the finishing touches of the record.

With Holyland, Neighbors and a former writing partner “would kind of operate in a ‘well that’s pretty cool’ type of recording process,” Neighbors recalls. “With Uproar we would say ‘well that’s pretty cool, how can we make it better. Okay, we just made it better; how can we make it perfect? It was a huge change in approach.”

Uproar isn’t as accessible to the average listener as Holyland, but it is the record we wanted to make, and it is a true expression of where we are as artists,” Neighbors explains in press notes. “The atmosphere of What An Uproar is a direct result of us freeing ourselves to make the music we truly wanted to make, not necessarily the music that was expected from us,” Black adds. “If we found ourselves wading into waters that felt vulnerable and uncomfortable, then we knew we were being honest and on the right track. The vulnerability in trying to be as authentic as possible is always scary but being honest and upfront was what we wanted to accomplish.”

Sonically and stylistically, What An Uproar is a departure from the duo’s debut effort, which was a dance floor friendly batch of material. The soon-to-be released sophomore album is centered around Neighbors’ introspective lyrics about anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse and broken relationships — while sonically, the material reportedly recalls Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails and The Faint. “I have always hid behind vocal effects and vague lyrics to mask what the songs are really about,” Neighbors explains. “Not this time. A lot of the lyrical content is about anxiety and depression. Too much boozing and a broken relationship. For a long time I wasn’t trying to feel better and just accentuating what I was going through. I wrote all of these songs while I was still sitting in that dark place.”

“Stranger,” What An Uproar‘s latest single is centered around thumping, industrial-like beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, Neighbors plaintive vocals and a dance floor friendly hook — but interestingly, the track recalls Violator-era Depeche Mode and The Postal Service, while being full of slow-burning dread and anxiety.